Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2009 Week 12 Hansard (Thursday, 15 October 2009) . . Page.. 4560 ..
The provisions put the onus back on the principal to ensure that due diligence is followed in terms of maintaining appropriate workers compensation cover both for themselves and by their subcontractors. In future, contractors will have to ensure their houses are in order and not rely on the government to prop them up because of their failure to maintain proper and adequate workers compensation insurance.
At the same time, it provides a necessary and more certain safety net for injured workers. If an injured worker is not covered by insurance either by their employer or, in the case of contractual hierarchies, where their employer is a subcontractor and the principal contractor does not cover the worker, the worker will still have access to compensation through the default insurance fund, but the fund manager will be able to recover the costs from the employer.
The defined purpose of the fund is to indemnify employers only if they have a relevant policy but the insurer cannot provide the indemnity required or has been wound up, or if the employer is a self-insurer and is unable to pay the compensation. The bill provides more certainty for employers, employees and insurers.
Administratively, the bill requires the default insurance fund manager to assess the fund’s financial position each year. Also, it allows the manager to decide if a policy exists if the employer cannot produce a record of the policy. It also provides the basis for the manager to calculate the annual contributions that employers must make to the fund and it provides a mechanism for supplementary contributions in cases of exceptional circumstances. It also sets out the classes of persons who can claim against the fund—that is, the injured worker, their representative, a dependant or the worker’s estate if they are deceased, and the circumstances in which a claim may be made.
In relation to the financial matters, the bill enables the fund to build sufficient assets to generate the income necessary to meet the obligations to injured workers. In time, by closing the loophole that currently exists, there should be scope, firstly, to reduce the levy burden on insurers or self-insured employers and, secondly, to provide more certainty as to the amount of that levy, which inevitably will be passed on by insurers to employers, and which now will be able to be disclosed as a separate line item on premium notices sent by insurers. The bill takes us forward and the opposition is pleased to support this progress.
MS BRESNAN (Brindabella) (12.00): The Greens will be supporting this bill. The bill makes a number of sensible and necessary changes to the Workers Compensation Act. They are changes that have the support of both employer and employee representatives.
The workers compensation scheme in the ACT has a fairly complex history of amendments and is itself fairly complex. The government made significant amendments in 2005 by amalgamating two existing safety net schemes to form the default insurance fund. The default insurance fund ensures that privately employed workers who suffer a workplace injury have access to workers compensation benefits.